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Thunderstone Advance, Towers of Ruin: The Heroes, Part 2

TSAIn this piece, we will look at the other half of the heroes in Thunderstone Advance: Towers of Ruin. Sorry, no pics in this one due to some technical difficulties. I’ll go back and add them later.  You can see the first half here. Let’s jump right in.

Glamercast: In the Pathfinder game I play in, we recently lost our bard. He was put below the death point by falling damage…into a pit of acid. Good times.  While he only connected with his rapier or crossbow maybe 8 times in as many experience levels, he was unquestionably the party’s biggest damage dealer. Sigh. R.I.P. Falcar.

Back on topic, the Glamercast set is everything you want in a party bard, and probably the most powerful hero group in Towers of Ruin. While he’s pretty ineffective on his own, put him with another couple of guys and he shines. Glamercast, while not an official endorsement of Regulars, actually makes it so you don’t care if they stick around a while.

Glamercast Troubadour (level 1) is a solid investment in most games. 6 gold, no Attack value, 2 Strength (not enought to lift a Longspear) What’s not to love, right? He also gives every other hero in the party Magic Attack +1. He’s more than what most people expect. They see him and think that he’s pretty much a Feast on legs that doesn’t boost Strength or give you 3 Gold. And they’re right. However, he does a few things considerably better. Namely, A) Feast can’t hold weapons. To be fair, this guy is weak and doesn’t have a lot of Weapon options, but “not a lot” beats “zero” B) Feast doesn’t GLOW. Glamercast comes standard equipped with a point of Light. This acts as a pseudo Attack value of 2, which helps compensate for the fact that he doesn’t have any Attack value himself. C) Feasts don’t pump each other. One Glamercast can make rabid groupies out of Regulars. Two can have an impromptu jam session, 3 or more and you’ve got a supergroup. If these bonuses stacked in Pathfinder like they do in Thunderstone, every adventuring party would be 5 or so musicians out to conquer the world with the power of rock.

Glamercast Bard (level 2) is more of the same, with a pretty noticeable distinction in that he actually can fight a little himself. Not much, he’s still pretty worthless on his own and he’s only marginally more effective than the Troubadour when only accompanied by one hero, but him helping out does make a difference. He has a base Magic Attack +2 and gets a Strength bump that makes it so he can equip a Longspear. Who knows, you may even still have Longspears in your deck at this point!

Glamercast Maestro (level 3) is the pinnacle of Bard evolution in Thunderstone. He steps up his own Magic Attack value to +3, pumps everyone else by +2, still glows, is worth 2 VP, and if that all weren’t enough, he picks up the ability Spoils: Gain 1 XP for each hero in the party. Given his totally boss buffs, it should be pretty easy to trigger Spoils. Given, by the time you’re into Level 3 Heroes, XP will matter a little less, but pending how fast you can get into this one, he could be key to grabbing more than your fair share of the available Level 3s.

When I posted the first half of this to BGG, one of the first responses was someone thanking me for the writeup and asking when I was going to say “This Hero is total garbage” Well, Darquil, here he is. Sternnkin is, in my estimation, below par on every level past 1, and his level one is just OK. In fact, when he shows up in my Randomizer app, I normally huff and hit reshuffle, and my love of gaming masochism is well documented.

Sternnkin Orcbane (level 1) is the glorious epitome of the status quo where level 1 Fighters should be. 5 Strength, Physical Attack +2. No ability, but not horribly expensive either. The best part about him is that he’s a Dwarf, so he waives the Strength requirement on Dwarven Bear Hammer. C-c-c-combo!

Sternnkin Ettinbane (level 2) might make you scratch your head and say “Um…guys? Is this a joke? I don’t get it.” Well, you’re not alone. No one gets it. His Strength did not increase. His Physical Attack barely did. However, he did pick up this sweet conditional +2 Attack bonus against Monsters with higher VP than his Strength…which translates to “Monsters significantly harder than he is capable of defeating.”  That’s his ability. Better against Monsters that are going to pound him into dwarfburger. Not even great against those Monsters, just better. The flipside of this is ignoring that he is utterly mediocre against Monsters that are not big baddies.

Sternnkin Dragonbane (level 3) is the disappointing conclusion to this awful trilogy. He gets 2 VP, his Strength remains static, making him not the fighter of choice for heavier Weapons. His base Attack increases to +4, and the bonus against Monsters he can’t possibly hope to beat increases to +3. For those of you keeping score at home, this means at level 2 in the right light, he can be a weaker Criochan. His level 3 gets to be not as good sometimes as the Criochan is all the time. I wished that the numbers were shifted a little to where in whatever circumstances triggered his bonus he became a real powerhouse, at least at that point, you’d have the argument that in the right situations, he’s the better choice, but nope. He has to put himself in excessive danger to be not as good as the other Fighter in the set. To be fair, I’m overly zealous in painting this guy as the worst card in the game when he’s not. He’s clearly one of the worst Heroes in this set though. In the right circumstances, he’ll have his time to shine, but I feel there are more dynamic choices. It is worth mentioning that if there are Strength draining Monsters, this set’s stock value improves considerably. Just as long as Criochan isn’t around.

Thundermage is simultaneously one of the best Heroes in the set as well as one of the most fun.

Thundermage Summoner (level 1) weighs in at a somewhat hefty 7 Gold, with a 3 Strength, Magic Attack +2 and 1 Light. Hm..I’ve seen this somewhere before. Ah, right. It’s the stat line on the bah-roken Elf Wizard from the base Thunderstone game. Thundermage is 2 Gold more expensive and is worth every penny.

Thundermage Evoker (level 2) tips the scales at 10 Gold, with no increase to Strength. Meh – she’s a Wizard, whatcha gonna do? Her Magic Attack increases to +3, and she now provides 2 Light. While she’s an outstanding card, she totally falls behind the Elf curve at this point. (This is actually a good thing). She’s solid and reliable if a bit bland, but that’s ok, because the big payoff comes in…

Thundermage Bolter (level 3) With a name like that, there are certain things that one would come to expect. Like completely frying monsters with  excessive displays of force. Which she does magnificently. Her Strength increases to 4, not that that really ever comes into play, her Light generation holds steady at 2, her Magic Attack increases to +4 and she picks up 2 VP. After all of that, then she gets fun. Dungeon: Place the monster from rank 1 into your discard pile (you do not collect XP). End your turn. With her strong Attack value and 2 Light production, she’s a super valuable asset anywhere, but there is something delightfully satisfying in yelling “BANG!” (or whatever your chosen sound effect is) and nuking the hapless bad guy in Rank 1. This makes her one of the few Heroes that is almost always useful, even alone. (barring the Monster in Rank 1 being immune to Wizards.) There are a few things about this ability  to be noted. It ends your turn, so activate any other Dungeon abilities you want to use first. Dungeon abilities that manipulate the positions of Monsters in the Hall are at a premium with her, though honestly, you should have very little problem kicking Monster ass at this point, no matter where it is in the Dungeon. As it ends your turn, you get to skip all those nasty Battle and Aftermath effects, as well as any Spoils abilities. Lastly, as thoroughly satisfying as it would be, you will never have the opportunity to roast the Thunderstone Bearer in this gruesome fashion.

Veilminder is a Hero set  that looks good on paper…sometimes, but leaves a lot to be desired in action. While Drua presents the cleansing aspect of the Cleric class, Veilminder represents the protective parts of Clerics. The value of the Veilminder stack is completely dependent on the nastiness of the Monster assortment.

Veilminder Martyr (level 1). is reasonably costed at 5 Gold. He’s got 4 Strength, good for most things, not for the best things. He has Magic Attack +1.  He’s also appropriately titled. Dungeon: Destroy this card to cancel a Battle or Aftermath effect on a Monster in the hall. An ability has to be pretty harsh to be willing to lose a guy you paid for to it. Also consider that if you activate this ability, you will not get to level him.

Veilminder Renunciate (level 2) Going by his name, he figured out this whole “dying for the cause” shit was for the birds. He didn’t get stronger, his Gold only increased to 7. Magic Attack increases to +2. His ability changes to Dungeon: Discard this card to cancel 1 Battle or Aftermath ability on a Monster in the hall. In the wisdom gained by experience, he figures out that you don’t have to kill yourself to save the team. That’s good, I guess. But you still lose the card when it matters, in the middle of the fight.

Veilminder Priest (level 3) can carry a Longsword at 5 Strength, increases his Magic Attack to +3, gains 2 VP and costs 11 Gold. Veilminder Priest is one of the relatively rare Level 3 Heroes where you may get more chances to buy him than other 3rd level guys, by virtue of the lower level versions exploding and not leveling. His ability beefs up too. Dungeon: Discard this card to cancel all Battle and Aftermath effects. Draw a card. So, previously, you lost a guy (one way or another) and chose a single effect to ignore. This guy goes, cancels ALL effects for the turn, and even replaces himself in your hand. There’s no guarantee that you’ll draw something handy for your loss of 3 Attack, but that’s still better than either of the other two versions gave you.

As mentioned earlier, depending on the nastiness of the Monsters, the Veilminder stack may get completely ignored, picked at a little bit, or hungrily devoured. A strong knowledge of the Monsters will help you determine how fervently to buy into this set. Personally, I don’t care for them much. Even at Level 3, he can only nullify effects, never actually helping to win the fight unless you keep him in hand and he’s the weakest of the Level 3 Heroes at that point. Darquil, I may have to rescind my earlier statement. Though it pains me to say it, unless there are some truly horrific Monster abilities out there, I’ll take Sternnkin over Veilminder.
Closing up the first Hero group for Towers of Ruin is the Whetmage set. While not the most powerful Hero set by any means, I feel that often times they are underrated. He’s constantly *just* shy of being awesome.

Whetmage Honer (level 1) does not compare favorably to almost any other level 1 hero in the game. How’s that for an endorsement? He’s reasonably costed at 5 Gold, but he has an abysmally low Strength of 2 and a piddly Magic Attack + 1. His ability seems exciting, but isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Dungeon: Level up a Regular or Level 1 Hero, adding the newly leveled Hero to your hand. Wow! Pretty awesome, right? Well, not really, and here’s why. First the good news. When you activate his ability, you benefit immediately. Normally when you level a guy you have to fully cycle your deck to see the rewards. Whetmage provides that sweetest of all fruits in this modern age, instant gratification. Turn a Regular into something better, potentially with a new ability to be used, without waiting for a deck cycle. It’s important to remember that you cannot destroy cards that have used their abilities, so if you play on upgrading a Regular, don’t draw a card with a Longspear. Then, the not so good. A lot of new players make the mistake of assuming that because he says “Level up” you just get to level somebody up! However, the rulebook definition of Leveling up means paying the experience cost normally associated with doing so. So he does NOT waive XP costs, but he DOES allow you to level in the Dungeon, saving you a trip to the Village. The problem is that you don’t exactly have a lot of XP in that early game to fuel his ability, and his less-than-stellar combat numbers aren’t a great deal of help in getting them. Also, unless you buy harder into the stack, you’ll still have to go into the Village to level *him*. His level 1 is not so great, but it gets better.

Whetmage Finisher (level 2) is still weak at 2 Strength, and his Magic Attack climbs respectably to +3. His Gold cost is a completely affordable 8. His ability gets a few noticeable upgrades. Dungeon: Level up another hero, adding it to your hand. So, first, he loses the restriction of which heroes he can level up. That’s important in the midgame, but not as important as the notion that by this point, you might actually have some XP kicking around to power his ability. This can be a pretty significant tempo boost, getting you access to Level 3s faster than other players and using them to break faces immediately, but this boost is offset by the notion that you had to work through the decidedly less savory level 1 to do so.

Whetmage Finisher (level 3) finally gets enough strength to equip a Longspear, and his Magic Attack goes to a beefy +5. Not bad. He’s 11 Gold, and he’s the only Level 3 in this set to be worth 3 VP. His Dungeon ability can now level *any* number of Heroes in hand, though no one can be leveled more than once in this capacity. He may be badass, but no one is badass enough to take 7 XP and turn a Regular into a Criochan Captain in the space of a single Dungeon run. The ability to expand to multiple heroes is actually somewhat unlikely to be used, because if you’ve been buying into this stack, you’ve been trying to spend your XP like it’s going out of style. The real beauty of the Whetmage set is that once you get into the level 2 and 3, you can avoid going to the Village to level heroes, which is kind of a big deal. Mid to late game, this is the primary reason anyone is going to the Dungeon, and in doing so they sacrifice a turn of beats to get better guys. You have to finesse this guy some, but if you do it well, you get to level faster, and without taking time off from cracking skulls.

This concludes the look at Heroes in Towers of Ruin. Next time I will discuss the Village cards, combos and play tips.

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4 thoughts on “Thunderstone Advance, Towers of Ruin: The Heroes, Part 2

  1. I’m confused about something. In your description of the Whetmage, you said, “…this can allow for some double dipping. Use a Regular’s ability to draw a card from his equipped Polearm, then turn him into something better, potentially with a new ability to be used.” Isn’t this impossible? The definition of leveling a hero states that you must destroy the hero before replacing it with the improved version, right? Well, in that case, you could not use the Whetmage’s ability to level up the Regular, since you had already used its Dungeon ability to draw a card.

    1. Humorously enough, someone pointed this out on BGG too. Complete oversight accompanied by forehead smack. I edited the post at BGG, and then DIDN’T edit it here at home. Second forehead smack. I’ve since then fixed it. This also tips my hand as to how often I think it’s a good idea to draft Whetmage. Unless I have a Village XP engine a la Historian (or Sage or Trainer if you combine Classic/Advance) I typically avoid it. Theoretically it also works with Bandia’s Wisdom, but in my own experiments with this it has not been super fruitful. If I have an aggressive thinning tool to put the two together consistently, then maybe it’s worth another try, but “aggressive thinning” is pretty much a nice way of saying “trashing Regulars” which can slow down that strategy as you need heroes to level. This makes that a 3 card combo, Whetmage, Bandia’s Wisdom, and a hero to level, all of which need to show up in a hand that also beats a Monster. If one was combining sets, Bluefire wouldn’t be a bad call, as it generates XP in the Dungeon and also helps fight…albeit as well as Whetmage himself does. Still, I *have* seen the tempo increase pay off, even if I wasn’t the one to make it work. Thanks for reading!

      1. Well, I understand what you mean when you say that it’s a 3-card combo – but there’s another thing that I’m not sure about. Couldn’t the Whetmage use his ability to level himself (thereby technically making it just a 2-card combo)? This is because although the Whetmage will have used his Dungeon ability, the rules state that a card can destroy itself even if it has already used an ability that turn. Unless I’m misunderstanding that rule.

        Of course, it may be of questionable usefulness to use a Whetmage’s ability just to level itself, but then you might be able to get into the level 3 version a lot faster if you were able to draw him with a Bandia’s Wisdom.

  2. Unless I am mistaken, he can level himself, so technically Whetmage + Bandia’s Wisdom can be a two card combo, but his ability to level up OTHER heroes capable of kicking more butt than him is the point. His combat stats are not terrible as Wizards go, but they aren’t great either, and his ability is dependent on unspent XP, which his less-than-stellar combat prowess doesn’t help to obtain. If I have to spend a lot of time leveling up Whetmage, it might be better just to avoid him. Also, the only two card combos I want to play with are two cards that work well independently that combine to something greater. When Bandia’s Wisdom shows up without an accompanying Whetmage, it’s a slightly more battle-friendly Thunderstone Shard, in that I don’t have to win the fight to get the 1 XP. I personally want more than that to justify inclusion of the combo. If there are other people who benefit from Spells like Forcemage then it becomes a stronger argument.

    Like I said earlier, I have seen Whetmage put to good use, and I understand how he can be a strong tempo gain, but I have not myself been able to make it work. I wonder now what other elements were in that game. Maybe he was drafting Whetmages and Glamercasts…Next time they show up together, I’ll give it another go. 🙂

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